They say that if managers don't do end-of-year performance reviews, people won't work hard enough at their jobs; it's a last ditch effort to hold people accountable. Really? Is that what we believe about our so-called greatest assets? Well, not everyone. And get this: some of those doubters are the same zealots who hound you to turn in your performance reviews.
While HR leaders clamor for you to do performance reviews in order to hold people accountable, they secretly report in national surveys that they really use them to justify pay increases. In fact, any reasons they give relating to managing performance end up at or near the bottom of the list. How ironic! Apparently, when it comes to performance reviews, some HR leaders are feeding managers a bunch of hooey. Fed up with it, companies like Lockheed, Adobe Systems, and NASA have pulled the plug on performance reviews. After calculating the time, expense, and lack of return on investment, leaders decided resources drained by doing them could be better used in more productive activities.
Of course, not everyone is ready to break with tradition. A hurdle for some is feeling they have to plug the hole that's left when the forms are gone and not knowing what to do instead. Historically, the old review process has been a way to check up on supervisors who weren't doing their jobs. Bad supervisors had to be told to track results, give feedback (particularly when things weren't going well), and prove they were complying by turning in a form for each employee at the end of the year. Letting them off the hook by telling them they no longer have to do reviews seems risky. If they stop doing reviews, how would supervisors be held accountable for holding everyone else accountable? Well, to shift to an appraisal-less workplace, we have to first stop thinking of performance management as a way to hold people accountable: then, change how we're managing.
It sounds strange, doesn't it? Isn't holding people accountable the boss's job? The problem is, holding people accountable simply reinforces employee compliance at the expense of commitment. It's this hold-them-accountable mentality that causes organizations to define performance management as an extra half a percent raise or one-point drop on a rating scale as if personal fulfillment at work can be reduced to a level of cheese and electric shocks in a lab experiment. But meaning and purpose -- commitment -- aren't produced from simplistic rewards and punishments and holding people accountable for compliance; they come from a sense of ownership for something bigger than oneself.
How do we help employees shift their energies away from complying with boss expectations to committing to business unit success? How do we support them taking on meaningful improvement initiatives as their own? Four leadership practices will help:
Trying it on for fit:
As an individual contributor, you can take the initiative and start building a culture of ownership, collaboration, and enthusiasm for performance improvements by finding ways to educate yourself and fellow team members about the business. Start by asking questions to learn the business. Discuss with others how you might work better together to solve a problem or improve team performance. Post your commitments and performance results where they can be easily seen and talked about. Schedule a regular time to meet fellow team members and ask them what they want you to keep doing as well as what they would like you to change in order to fulfill your commitments and contribute to team goals.
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